Monday, April 14, 2014

DIY Indoor Sandbox

One night recently, Grant and I had a date night. He gets to pick where we eat on our date nights and that is almost always Cracker Barrel. On our way through the maze of knick-knacks Grant likes to touch things. Things that are not exactly kid-friendly items. One of the employees there heard me asking Grant not to touch the ugly table-top fountain he was seconds away from dipping his fingers into and pointed out something he could play with. I am not a patient person when I'm hungry, but I humored her. It was this tiny sandbox with weird sand that played like wet sand complete with mini sand toys. He played, he thought it was great, and I entertained the idea of adding it to his Easter basket...until I saw it was $15.

This past Friday, Grant was home sick. Even when he's sick, he rarely acts sick so he always wants to go outside. I remembered something I had read on Pinterest that was a little like that mini sandbox thing at Cracker Barrel AND I had all the stuff to make it.

I found this "recipe" from Growing a Jeweled Rose on Pinterest and I had all the stuff on hand. Except a container for it but a quick search of my kitchen brought up my largest Rubbermaid container. I figured it would do until I bought something else.

Sticky Sand
  • 5 cups play sand
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
That's it. You just put all those ingredients in a container and mix it up until it's all combined. It took a little elbow grease to get the lumps out. At first I was skeptical but it wasn't long until it looked just like the picture I saw and it plays just like wet sand. I got out one of Grant's cups and a spoon for a shovel and he happily played at the table with that for quite a while.

He only made a minimal mess with it but it was really easy to clean up.

Later on after his doctor appointment we went to Target to pick up some prescriptions (one of which he had an allergic reaction to that landed us in the ER Friday night) so I grabbed a bigger bin for the sand too. I ended up making a second batch of the stuff and added some sand toys we had in the garage. He pretty much thought it was the best thing ever. Saturday morning as soon as he woke up, he was asking to play with his sand box. Since I had the stuff on hand (minus the bigger bin) it cost next to nothing. The bin at Target was $6. The play sand you can find at a home improvement store, if you don't already have it, for around $3-$5 per bag. And you can make a ton! I'm so glad I gave this a try instead of getting the little kit we saw.

Saturday morning: Iron Man and his sandbox.
Source: Growing a Jeweled Rose

Friday, April 11, 2014

New Recipe: PW's Tortellini Primavera

I saw this recipe on the Pioneer Woman's site last week and it immediately went on my menu for the week. Then I ran out of steam toward the end of the I made it this week. I thought the combination of pasta and fresh veggies would be a tasty spring meal and it was! Even Grant ate it.

Tortellini Primavera

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 whole medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 whole carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup cauliflower, broken or cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 8 whole basil leaves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup cooked ham, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Extra Parmesan & basil for serving
  • 1 pound cheese (or spinach) tortellini
  1. Cook tortellini a couple of minutes less than package directions call for. Drain and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and stir to cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the carrots and cauliflower, stir, cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the wine and broth, then cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid reduced some.
  5. Add in cream and Parmesan cheese, stir. 
  6. When mixture is hot, add the peas, ham, salt, and pepper. Allow them to heat up in the sauce. When the sauce is hot, stir in the cooked tortellini.
  7. Taste test your seasonings and add more if necessary. Serve with extra Parmesan and basil, if desired.
Recipe Source: The very awesome Pioneer Woman

  • The above recipe is PW's original recipe. I didn't use wine or basil. We don't keep wine of any sort around this house so I substituted more chicken broth in place of the wine. I thought it tasted fantastic. And I just don't like basil but if you do, I bet its very tasty on this dish. But if you're like me and you don't like it, your dinner will not be ruined by the absence of basil.
  • I highly recommend checking out the recipe on PW's site. Not only are there, as usual, step-by-step pictures but also a list of things she recommends as add-ins for this dish. I added 3-4 ounces of cream cheese since she suggested it (which I added at the same time as the cream and Parmesan). It was great!
  • Next time I'll thaw my peas. I was leery of the peas anyway because...well, they're peas. However, this pea hater ate every pea on her plate because they were so yummy in this dish...just a bit too crunchy. Your cauliflower & carrots may be crunchy too but I'm good with that.
  • Ham! Oh how I love ham. I used pre-diced ham since this was going to be a weeknight meal and I wanted to cut down on prep. I chose the smaller diced pieces but they ended up sort of disappearing into the dish. Next time, I'd go with larger pieces or just buy ham steaks and chop them myself.
I've never made a PW recipe that I didn't like or that turned out bad. Check out her stuff, she's awesome! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Three Bears Acres - 2014

Saturday was a gorgeous day. And our weather has been a little unpredictable so we took advantage of the sunny day by using some groupon tickets we had to Three Bears Acres. We went there last year too and Grant had such a good time that when discount admission was offered again, I couldn't pass it up. 

Grant was pumped and seemed to remember some of the stuff to do there. Of course, once we got there and he was surrounded by everything, his toddler ADD kicked in and he didn't know where to start. It was more crowded than on the day we went last year but the space is so open that we didn't really even notice it.

We ended up at the paint wall first. Which was also when I realized I had no memory card in my camera. So these are all iPhone pictures.

Between the paint wall and the sandbox, I think Grant would have been happy staying right around there for the rest of the day. I tried to coax him over to the jumping pillow but it was loaded with people. So we hit the rolling tubes.

Look at that hair from the static!
 What happens when your kid asks you to get in the rolling tube with him? Well, you get in and make Husband push it of course!

Static everywhere! I love this picture :)
We plopped on a bench for a minute after that and Grant headed to the sandbox. He could play in the sand/dirt/whatever all day and not ever get bore, I swear.

Tennis ball slingshots:

And then we said the magic word: S-L-I-D-E. Back in the wooded area they have a huge toboggan slide. When we got over there we found out they were having to wet it down. I guess the sleds go better when its wet and with it being a warm day, it dried out quick. Since Grant doesn't get the concept of "this won't be finished for 20-30 minutes" he said he'd like to wait. Thank goodness he's easily distracted at places like this. On to the tree houses!

While trying to convince Grant that it was a good time to eat the picnic lunch I'd packed, we noticed the slide was up and running. Eating went out the window.

Its just safer if I go to, right?
A few times down the slide and we had to re-fuel. So we had a picnic in the back of the truck and rested up a little then headed back in for more fun.

Finally the jumping pillow! 
And back to the tree houses. They have lots of fun
stuff hanging underneath them too.

His favorite swing by far! These are hard
to get time on. Parents don't seem to like
encouraging their kids to share.
We were headed out after that but we had to pass the slide the leave. And it's hard to say no to "Can I please slide again? Please? Please? Please?" So we - Husband was apprehensive about this - let him hit the slide alone.

He didn't go as fast without my big butt for weight.
We had such a great day out there. I love how much Grant loves to play outside and we had so much fun watching him re-explore this place.

Side note: If you stumble upon this post and it makes you want to check out Three Bears Acres, I mention some things in my post last year (link in the beginning of this post) that still stand. Pack food because there aren't restaurants nearby and still only a small concession trailer at the park. They have more things to do that I didn't mention here because we didn't get to them. Also, some things are under construction - like bathrooms so be advised they use port-a-potties. Just a friendly warning :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Recipe: Crockpot Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

This recipe is one I've had my sights on for a while but I was slightly intimidated by it. Now that I've made it, I'm not sure why because it was pretty easy...and REALLY good! I found this recipe for Crockpot Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin on Pinterest. There seem to be a gazillion verstion of this but that link is for the one I used specifically.

Crockpot Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

  • 2 lbs pork tenderloin
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 clove garlic; crushed
  • 1/2 water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  1. Mix together the seasonings: sage, salt, pepper and garlic. Rub the mixture over tenderloin(s). Pour 1/2 cup water in crockpot and put tenderloin(s) in crockpot.
  2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  3. An hour before the meat is finished, mix together the ingredients for the glaze in a small sauce pan: brown sugar, cornstarch, balsamic vinegar, water, and soy sauce.
  4. Heat over medium heat and stir until mixture thickens (she says about 4 minutes). Brush roast with glaze 2 or 3 times during the last hour of cooking. For a more caramelized crust: remove from crockpot and place on aluminum lined baking pan, glaze, and set under broiler for 1-2 minutes until bubbly and caramelized. Repeat 2-3 more times until desired crust is achieved.
  5. Serve with remaining glaze on the side.
Recipe Source: Laura's Sweet Spot


  • I made this exactly as the recipe said but my pork tenderloins (it was a package of two) were about 2.5 lbs. It still turned out great.
  • I glazed mine in the crockpot and caramelized it under the broiler. I was really afraid to burn it so I didn't leave it in there as long as I should have. Next time - I will be making this again - I'll be a little braver with the broiler.
  • The glaze is awesome! Not too sweet. Husband wanted to stick a fork in each end of one of the tenderloins and just gnaw the outside off like corn on the cob.
  • Reheated pretty well for lunch the next day :)
  • Kid tested, kid approved!

Friday, April 4, 2014

High Five for Friday

Today I'm linking up with Lauren and Jennie to share some of my favorite stuff from the past week.

1) Last Friday we had a lunch celebration for a co-worker on his second retirement and I got to make him a cake! He's the type of the guy who's good to work with plus he's super adorable. We had a good time on Friday with him but we're sad to see him go.

He was very excited about his cake :)
2) I tried a new recipe on Sunday (post coming soon!) and it was SO good! 

3) Sunday night, Grant and I got to take another bike ride together (and Husband walked with us).

4) I got a little crafty this week and made myself (and my sis) some hair ties :)

5) Our Wednesday night dinner was a picnic in the park! Nothing fancy, just some sandwiches & chips. I even packed a little cooler and Grant got to have sprite. We almost never let him have it, he thought it was a very special treat. After we ate, we played soccer in the field and hit the playground before heading home. So much fun!

Happy Friday!
Have a great weekend!
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